Boehning v. Indiana State Employees Association, Inc

Decision Date11 November 1975
Docket NumberNo. 74-1544,74-1544
Citation423 U.S. 6,46 L.Ed.2d 148,96 S.Ct. 168
PartiesRichard A. BOEHNING, etc., et al. v. INDIANA STATE EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, INC., et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court


Respondent Musgrave, an employee of the Indiana State Highway Commission, was dismissed for cause, her request for a pretermination hearing having been denied. She then brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit asserting hearing rights rooted in the Federal Constitution and seeking damages and injunctive relief. The District Court held that the controlling state statutes, as yet unconstrued by the state courts, might require the hearing demanded by respondent and so obviate decision on the constitutional issue. It therefore abstained until construction of the Indiana statutes had been sought in the state courts. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed, finding nothing in the language of the relevant state statutes that would support a claim for a pretermination hearing and then resolving the federal constitutional question in respondent's favor.

We reverse. Where the Indiana Administrative Adjudication Act is applicable, "(t)he final order or determination of any issue or case applicable to a particular person shall not be made except upon hearing and timely notice of the time, place and nature thereof." Ind.Code, § 4-22-1-5 (1974). The Act applies to all issues or cases applicable to particular persons "excluding . . . the dismissal or discharge of an officer or employee by a superior officer, but including hearings on discharge or dismissal of an officer or employee for cause where the law authorizes or directs such hearing." § 4-22-1-2. It may be that the Court of Appeals is correct in its "forecast," see Railroad Comm'n v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496, 499, 61 S.Ct. 643, 85 L.Ed. 971 (1941), that when construed together by the state courts, the Administrative Adjudication Act and the Indiana Bipartisan Personnel System Act, which applicable to Highway Commission employees and which neither expressly authorizes nor precludes termination hearings, would not require the hearing respondent has demanded. On the other hand, the relevant statutory provisions may fairly be read to extend such hearing rights to respondent; * and in these circumstances we conclude that the District Court was right to abstain from deciding the federal constitutional issue pending resolution of the state-law question in the state courts. Meridian v. Southern Bell T. & T. Co., 358 U.S. 639, 640, 79 S.Ct. 455, 3 L.Ed.2d 562 (1959); Reetz v. Bozanich, 397 U.S. 82, 90 S.Ct. 788, 25 L.Ed.2d 68 (1970); Harman v. Forssenius, 380 U.S. 528, 85 S.Ct. 1177, 14 L.Ed.2d 50 (1965); Fornaris v. Ridge Tool Co., 400 U.S. 41, 91 S.Ct. 156, 27 L.Ed.2d 174 (1970); Railroad Comm'n v. Pullman Co., supra.

The petition for certiorari is granted, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further consideration consistent with this opinion.

So ordered.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting.

The position of the Court continues the strangulation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that has recently been evident. See, e. g., Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 95 S.Ct. 1200, 43 L.Ed.2d 482 (1975). The road of the respondent employee has been longer and more expensive than the Congress planned. See Harrison v. NAACP, 360 U.S. 167, 179-184, 79 S.Ct. 1025, 1031-1034, 3 L.Ed.2d 1152 (1959) (Douglas, J., dissenting). I would affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.

* The possibility that the Indiana state courts would adopt the construction contrary to that of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is somewhat enhanced by the fact that the construction adopted by the Seventh Circuit may fairly be said to raise federal constitutional problems under recent procedural due process decisions of this Court, e. g., Arnett v....

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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • October 5, 1978
    ...U.S.C. § 1983. See, e. g., Carey v. Sugar, 425 U.S. 73, 96 S.Ct. 1208, 47 L.Ed.2d 587 (1976); Boehning v. Indiana State Employees' Ass'n, Inc., 423 U.S. 6, 96 S.Ct. 168, 46 L.Ed.2d 148 (1975); Harrison v. NAACP, 360 U.S. 167, 79 S.Ct. 1025, 3 L.Ed.2d 1152 6 Section 114 of the city charter, ......
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    ...4 L.Ed.2d 1170 (1960), and is particularly appropriate in § 1983 actions seeking damages, see Boehning v. Indiana State Employers Association, 423 U.S. 6, 96 S.Ct. 168, 46 L.Ed.2d 148 (1960); Harrison v. NAACP, 360 U.S. 167, 79 S.Ct. 1025, 3 L.Ed.2d 1152 (1959); West v. Village of Morrisvil......
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    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • December 20, 1978
    ...257 (1972). 19 Most relevant to the present case is the Supreme Court's decision in Boehning v. Indiana State Employees Association, 423 U.S. 6, 96 S.Ct. 168, 46 L.Ed.2d 148 (1975) (per curiam). There, a dismissed state employee brought a § 1983 action alleging that her due process right to......
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    • March 5, 1979
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